Posted by Rowi Ranger
Friday, February 11th, 2011 at 1:45 pm
Since June of last year I have been a student of the Trainee Ranger Certificate course at Nelson Polytechnic. The course is designed to prepare students to work for the Department of Conservation. So far I have learnt skills such as fencing, rural fire fighting, chainsaw and ATV use, bushcraft and backcountry navigation and will learn heaps more when I return to class in a few weeks. The best thing about the course, however, is that over the summer break all students get a work placement with DOC.
For this I was sent to Franz Josef Glacier to work in the rowi recovery team. Over the last three months I have been learning what a rowi field ranger does and it has been an exciting experience.
Me tracking a kiwi.
Every day I go into the bush, sometimes overnight to track birds that need our assistance. When the bird has been detected with radio telemetry gear, it is a matter of tracking into it which involves navigating off track through primeval rimu forest, descending into valleys and climbing back onto ridges. As you track in the signal gets louder and louder and before you know it you are outside the kiwi burrow.
With the help of the Sky Ranger monitoring software, before leaving the office we know whether the bird is due for a transmitter change or if it is sitting on an egg in need of rescue.
Burrow located. Mission: Safely remove egg!
So once the burrow is found we perform one of these two tasks. If a transmitter change is the point of the visit then the bird is carefully taken from its burrow, its weight and condition checked and a new radio tag put on. If an egg rescue is to be performed, a rowi ranger reaches in and carefully removes the egg which is carried out in a box with a hot water bottle and shredded paper for protection. The egg is taken to be hatched in captivity, raised on a pest-free island and, when it is big enough to defend itself from the perils of the stoat, returned to its Okarito home.
Mission completed: One healthy egg retrieved.
Sometimes the bird you’re after does a runner and can’t be found, sometimes the egg is too far into the nest to reach and sometimes a bird may have died. This is a bit of a let down, but for every thing that goes wrong a hundred things go right. I will miss working with rowi team and hope to return once I finish my studies. I can also tell you the ranger course is well worthwhile.
Posted by Anna – Rowi Field Ranger
Friday, February 4th, 2011 at 12:45 pm
Last week Ieuan and I went out to North Okarito to search for a couple of our young rowi (or sub-adults for us ecologists) who were giving us the run-around.
We were keen to do a health check and make sure they were all settling in well to their new home in North Okarito forest.
In October last year we released 20 one-year-old rowi into North Okarito forest – an area where they once lived.
We released the rowi in several groups, generally at the top of ridgelines. However, following release, all of the birds have travelled varying distances, some far and wide before they have settled down into an area. Some are still moving around the forest quite a bit, so we need to regularly monitor their movements and keep up with where they are living!
We had been having a hard time locating two birds but were finally able to locate one of these using Skyranger (find out more about this aerial monitoring software).
So we finally picked up a faint signal and headed out the next day, using the Skyranger information to help us locate the bird.
Sure enough our bird was tucked down near the bottom of a steep ridge, in the midst of dense, hard-going forest, with supplejack vine hindering our progress to a crawl.
The beautiful big rata tree - you can see all the great hiding places for kiwi in its roots.
We eventually arrived at a huge old rata tree where we were getting a great signal on our bird to indicate it was inside the base of this amazing tree….the tree root system had many tunnels and entrance ways that looked as though a kiwi would use them. We identified some kiwi poo and a feather at one entrance so were very sure he was inside somewhere.
Me trying to find our kiwi down one of the tunnels in the rata's roots.
It took a lot of searching around, but we eventually found him and gently pulled him out to do a health check and make sure he had put on lots of weight. We also changed the harness of his transmitter so it was nice and comfortable and then popped him back into his amazing, huge home, wondering if he realised what a spectacular tree he had chosen to nest in!